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Suffolk legislature OKs new pawnshop rules, ferry rate hikes

The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday unanimously passed legislation to require pawnshops and secondhand dealers to photograph sellers' identification and the items they sell, and upload the images to county police.

The legislature also passed rate hikes for ferries and water taxis to Fire Island.

A bill to ban camera-carrying drones from flying over county-owned buildings and land stalled and was returned to committee for revisions.

The pawnshop measure aims to help police recover more stolen property and attack the heroin trade by cutting back on the sale of stolen items, said William Madigan, Suffolk police chief of detectives.

Currently, pawnbrokers must provide police with written descriptions of items and the names of sellers.

Mark Kriss, attorney for the Collateral Loan Brokers of New York, said the measure would allow police to "take a virtual tour of a store's vault," without probable cause that a crime was committed. He said a similar New York City law is being challenged in federal and state courts.

Veronica O'Neill, president of William J. O'Neill Sales Exchange Co. in Patchogue, called the bill an "overreach," and expressed concerns about the security of the data sent to police.

O'Neill said most of her customers are teachers, nurses and small business owners. "These are people trying to make ends meet," she said.

Also Tuesday, lawmakers unanimously passed fare hikes for Fire Island ferries and water taxis that go into effect next month.

The rate hikes increase round-trip ferry passenger tickets from Bay Shore to Fire Island communities by $2, to $19. Water taxi rides between Fire Island communities would also increase, to $9 to $18 each way from the current $7 to $16.

The hikes are the first rate increases for the ferry since 2008 and the first water taxi rate increase since 2010.

The bill banning camera-carrying drones was tabled after a lengthy debate between sponsor Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and other lawmakers who wanted more detailed rules about exemptions. The legislation carries a $500 fine.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said he owns a drone and has used it for aerial photography on the East End and at county parks. He promised to work with Muratore on a revised version of the bill. Muratore supported the tabling.

The legislature also passed a bill that requires the police department to study whether it can reduce the training period for new recruits with prior law enforcement experience. Officials were skeptical that the training period can be reduced.

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